Things I Learned: February 21, 2020

1. I have to laugh: China’s one-child-policy devalued girls in favor of boys. Now the boys are grown up, and guess what they miss? There are a lot of lonely hearts in China’s top-tier cities (the imbalance between the two causes more choosiness and wishful thinking). China is missing more than 60 million girls. Urban girls are being choosy, bride prices are rising, girls are being imported from neighboring countries. In the long run, this sort of thing will almost certainly sort out demographically, but it’ll take time and pain. In the meantime, it will impact churches who want to help believers marry believers. (This isn’t quite the same situation as Korea’s in, where they may be in a downward spiral that’s very difficult to get out of.)

2. Persecution has generally been declining around the world: I hypothesize that, in the age of the Internet, authoritarians find it easier to regulate or imprison than to get the bad rep of killing Christians. (I note that killings spike when the Internet is turned off.) The one place where we hear of ‘persecution is rising sharply’ is in the context of religious violence and warfare. I’m not really sure I’d call this ‘persecution’ per se—really, over the past several decades, most ‘persecution’ has been in the context of warfare (Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, C A Republic, etc)—but there are clearly martyrs being made (depending, of course, one one’s definition of a martyr). The rise in violence in Burkina Faso is the latest example.

3. “The world as 100 Christians” is one of the diagrams I helped work on during the “in-person work week” I spent with CSGC working on the World Christian Encyclopedia. The bit I helped with was a very early draft (I’m no top-flight graphic artist). It was great to see the final version that has been published.

4. “The 100 most spoken languages in the world” is a concise infographic of data out of the latest Ethnologue. While a lot of languages are becoming extinct, there are far more commonly spoken languages than just the top 6 official UN languages. Any evangelistic or discipleship resource or effort that aspires to global coverage will eventually have to consider all of these languages, not just one or two.

5. I just saw this research: “The Attendance Replacement Postulate.” Early research by Lifeway suggests a generational change in American disposition toward worship service sizes: Boomers preferred large crowds, but Xer/Millennial/GenZ prefer sizes of 300 or less. This suggests that once a service is around 300, any losses (eg Boomers) in service size may be less easily replaced: Xers/Mills/Genz will go somewhere else. Very early research, and I doubt this will actually impact already established megachurches, but may make it harder for other churches to grow beyond the 300-size. Also suggests that X/Mill/Zs would be more predisposed to smaller, more intimate, multiplying, house-church style worship.

6. A fascinating piece on “Why meeting another’s gaze is so powerful.” There’s lots of little things that happen (it’s not just the eyes, for example—it’s also the eye muscles and micro flashes of emotion). An important reminder that when you aren’t in-person, you are missing something like 90% of the communication. Attending conferences, joining in worship together at church, being in small groups, even (I think) doing Zoom calls are important to building relationships and understanding what people really mean.

7. “A police state with an Islamist twist: inside Hifter’s Libya” is a chilling long read from the New York Times. I remember when Qaddafi was kicked out of power, lots of people thought Libya was going to ‘open up.’ Unfortunately, years later, after so much warfare, it’s just as closed (if not more). In Qaddafi’s time there was substantial mission work going on amongst Libyans; in this situation that will be far more difficult and more costly.

8. “How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart” is another long read, this one from The Guardian. It’s a pretty good survey of the history of the RSS, the BJP, and the rise of Hindu nationalism. It’s depressing, but a reality of what’s happening in India. And while Muslims are the main focus, other religious minorities are being impacted.